Potent, unforgettable tales and razor-sharp writing.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019



Eclectic characters struggle with fluctuating careers and relationships in this collection of short stories.

When an unemployed English teacher in “Content Moderator” is desperate for work, an old high school friend has a job for her. But evaluating disturbing online images and videos that people have reported may be more than the unnamed narrator can handle. Seemingly innocuous individuals in Wright’s (Table Manners, 2017) powerful book often find themselves in arduous circumstances. In “Lean into the Mic,” for example, Amanda has been performing amateur stand-up comedy for two years. But the perpetually anxious woman isolates herself from others, compounding her already precarious marriage. Similarly, Angela, the titular, self-professed “Major Prude,” is nonplussed when her wilder friend Carla and her roommate/stepbrother, Liam, hook up. But the aftermath may threaten her relationships with both. These profound tales typically showcase resilient characters. Chrissie, in “Uncle Harris,” faces off against her estranged father’s brother, who she believes is plotting to take away her younger siblings. In the title story, a mandatory work event (a “talk” on dealing with negativity) is an opportunity for a woman to come to terms with her brother’s recent fatal overdose. The author fills the pages with indelible prose and wry humor: Emily of “The Emilies” believes certain friendships are “as dutiful and potentially pointless as washing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.” Nevertheless, even the more comedic tales don’t forgo character insight. “Love Lasts Forever but a Tattoo Lasts Longer” features a decidedly unromantic wedding—near a prison visitation room with a priest who smells of hot dogs. But the bride may prefer that her new husband stay in jail (“I’ll know where he is every second”). The final work, “Them,” is the collection’s highlight. In it, Kate is shocked to learn that her lesbian best friend, Taylor, now identifies as genderqueer and goes by the pronoun they. The absorbing story earnestly examines both Kate and Taylor, as the two must decide how this change will impact their lifelong friendship.

Potent, unforgettable tales and razor-sharp writing.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-88971-339-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Nightwood Editions

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

Did you like this book?

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...


An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet